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Fitness for the CagePotato: Nate Moore’s Five Tips for Getting Into Fighting Shape

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If you’re like us, you spend each morning staring at your lovehandles in the mirror and crying. But life doesn’t have to be this way. We recently got in touch with Nate Moore — the Strikeforce veteran and founder of the Combat Circuit conditioning system — and begged him for some fitness advice. Nate gave us a fantastic overview of his MMA-inspired fitness philosophy, which you can read below. Follow Nate on Twitter and YouTube, learn more about Combat Circuit program here, and stay tuned for more good advice from Nate in the near future…


1. Start slow for safety, good technique, and maximum results.

Here’s what you think: I’ll never be Cain Velasquez if I don’t train my nuts off every day, twice a day, balls to the wall, punching through pain and gaining mental toughness and grit. Cain never takes a day off, and he never once threw a punch at half intensity. I have a lot of catching up to do, so I need to be at full intensity, all the time.

Here’s reality: You’ll never be Cain, but if you go balls to the wall right off the bat, you’ll learn bad technique, develop imbalances, and your overworked areas will eventually experience burnout and injury. It’s easy to mess up your body and your MMA technique when you go too fast and too hard. The biggest mistake people make when learning a new technique is that they try to do it as fast as they can before they learn how the movement is performed and before they know how it should feel. They continue to practice crappy technique, thinking they need to do it harder and faster to make it work.

What to do: Try to be calm and relaxed when you train, especially when you begin a new movement. Start every exercise, new technique, workout, and training camp slowly. Gradually ramp up your intensity and effort, until you find a good balance between relaxation and activation. Try to enjoy the slower, less intense pace, without trying too hard or flexing too hard or losing control, so you can learn what correct technique feels like.

Here is why it works: Just like a golf swing, less is more, and that’s because calming yourself down, taking it slowly, and relaxing your muscles allows your core to move and rotate freely. Refining any kind of technique takes time and effort, and gradual progression yields the best results. No one gets in shape or learns proper technique without starting from ground zero, moving up one level at a time. You can’t skip to Cain Velasquez’s physical ability or skill, without putting in the same amount of work he did to get there. Conservative progression means you’ll enjoy yourself, learn correct technique, and you’ll actually make bigger gains in the long run.

Example: Punches — Start throwing your punches very slowly, but relaxed. Imagine that you’re trying to use as little of your muscles as possible. Relaxation is impossible if you’re trying too hard to throw fast, hard punches. Slowly and gradually amp up the speed of your strikes, making sure that your technique is still correct, and that you’re not using more muscle than you need.

2. Move your core. Concentrating on core mobility and fluid motion is the key to moving with efficiency.

Here’s what you think: The bigger and harder my muscles can get, and the more forcefully they can squeeze and contract, the more powerful I’ll be in a fight. If I practice flexing my muscles by lifting heavy weights, then my MMA techniques will be more powerful and potent.

In reality: The more that you practice flexion and contraction, the more stiff and immobilized your core will become, and the worse your technique will get. Your ability to move will be diminished as you become bigger, tighter, and harder. Learning how to make your core move is more important than learning how to immobilize it.

Strength training should be done with curvilinear, smooth movements, meaning that the weight you’re moving should always be changing direction. The weight should not pause or stop moving, and it shouldn’t be held in place. Your opponent will never apply consistent pressure in a single direction, so the pressure you should apply to your opponent should be able to change directions. The stop and go movements you see in traditional weight lifting breed stiff, robotic motions, that are anything but smooth and efficient.

Here’s why it works: Moving your core means that you’re involving every muscle, every body part, every limb. By moving all of that heavy mass in your core, you’re producing a lot of motion and momentum, and that energy gets transferred through your arms and legs when the core makes big movements

Here’s what to do: Every exercise you perform should encourage maximal movement of the core. You should perform exercises that create motion of the core in multiple directions, from multiple positions. Lie on your back and work on elevating your core up and down. Stand on your feet and practice sprawling or twisting your core while punching.

Example: Strength training/deadlifts — If you’re lifting weights and your core isn’t moving, twisting, or shifting, then you’re practicing and learning immobility. The deadlift is a perfect example of adding muscular bulk and tensile strength, but the motor patterns you’re practicing, and the muscle you’re gaining, actually makes you slower and less powerful.

3. Concentrate on continuation — moving with momentum and perpetuating motion — instead of fighting gravity by performing slow, intense lifts or exploding forcefully without control or finesse.

Here’s what you think: The more weight that I can move and control, the stronger and more powerful I’ll be. If I can push this weight away from my body, or if I can pull 300 pounds off of the ground, then I’ll be able to push through my opponent, or lift him off the ground. So, I’ll plant my feet into the ground, and I’ll practice moving massive weights up and down.

In reality: Functional strength and finesse allows a person build upon momentum and move with, instead of against. To accelerate something and put something in motion is one thing, but to keep it in motion requires more control and awareness of strength, than it does to push or explode through something.

Pushing, pulling, and holding heavy weights against gravity, is absolutely nothing like fighting or other sports. Learning how to generate large amounts of force in one direction, learning how to resist and control a huge amount of mass, is way different than moving a live, moving person. In any sport, you’ll never push against something as predictable as gravity, and you’ll never use the stop and go motor patterns you develop in weight lifting.

Here’s what to do: Keep your movements natural and truly functional, by moving weight and the body in smooth, curvilinear arcs. Twist, rotate, and move the core around, to swing, slam, and throw with your whole body. Stay grounded and shift your core weight as much as possible. Take a weight, like a medicine ball or sandbell, and put it in motion. Slam the ball continuously, and don’t let it slow down or stop for 90 seconds.

Here’s why it works: MMA techniques are based on being dynamic and fluid, using smooth, continuous motion to execute efficient, effective motion. By moving a lighter weight with more speed in different directions, with smooth, total body motion, you’ll mimic the movements made in MMA way better than you will when grabbing the handle of a weight and picking it up and down.

Example: Most types of presses, pulls, and squats or anything else that makes you hold a lot of weight. This might teach your muscles how to contract, but only to resist and hold. These movements lack sophistication and complexity, making it harder for you to learn complex motor patterns.

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